Domestic Violence Coordinating Council
Fatal Incident Review Team
FIRT Reports | FIRT Membership | FIRT Policy & Procedures
The Domestic Violence Coordinating Council’s Fatal Incident Review Team (FIRT) was established by statute in 1996 (Title 13 Section 2105) and became the first statewide team in the country. FIRT members are dedicated professionals whose primary focus is to conduct system audits of State agencies and private organizations that had contact with the deceased victim and/or the perpetrator to assess the system’s response.
Although domestic violence fatality reviews are retrospective in nature, their purpose is prospective. Reviews focus on identifying trends, patterns and obstacles in services, assessing agency interventions, and most importantly, developing practical recommendations aimed at improving the system and preventing future injury and death. High risk factors are also identified. Steps may be taken to prevent future deaths, including changes in organizations’ policies and procedures and dissemination of information for intervention, prevention, public policy development, and education.
In 2009, the General Assembly granted FIRT the authority to conduct near-death reviews. These reviews enhance the team’s ability to improve Delaware’s response to domestic violence with the wealth of knowledge that can be gained from speaking directly with the domestic violence survivor about the incident, the history of violence, system involvement, and awareness of resources.
Cases involving the death of a minor related to domestic violence are reviewed jointly by the regional panel of the Child Death, Near Death and Stillborn Commission and Fatal Incident Review Team.
Some significant FIRT recommendations made and outcomes achieved since the team’s inception include the following:
- 2001 recommendation—Employers should receive information on how to make the workplace a safer place for victims, including providing victims with referral information.
Outcome: The Governor, in collaboration with the DVCC, sponsored a training for Cabinet Members, Agency Directors and Policy Advisors on Delaware’s coordinated response, domestic violence dynamics and resources. Diane Stuart, the Director of the U.S. Office on Violence Against Women was the featured presenter in April 2002.
- 2001 recommendation—Ongoing public awareness should be provided on the danger and dynamics of abusive relationships with emphasis on the resources, which are available to assist victims in safely ending the violence.
Outcome: Copies of the DVCC Safety Plan Brochure were distributed to 37,000 State of Delaware employees enclosed in their paychecks in October of 2002.
- 2007 recommendation—The DVCC should contact the Director of State Personnel about developing a State policy on violence in the workplace.
Outcome: The State of Delaware Workplace Violence Policy was revised to address domestic violence issues. In 2010, the DVCC provided assistance to the Governor’s Office in developing a separate policy specific to domestic violence for State employees.
- 2007 recommendation—The DVCC Legislative Subcommittee should amend the PFA Statute to expand members of protected classes to include same-sex intimate partner relationships and those dating relationships not currently covered by the PFA statute.
Outcome: SB 57, which passed in 2007, amended the definition of parties protected to dating relationships and same sex relationships.
- 2008 recommendation—The DVCC Legislative Subcommittee should review the Endangering the Welfare of a Child statute in regards to the definition of witness.
Outcome: The subcommittee drafted SB 33, which qualified that children can witness an act of domestic violence by sound as well as sight, acknowledging that a child may have only heard the violent act from another room, but nonetheless be a witness who is emotionally impacted by it. Signed 5/12/09.
- 2009 recommendation—The DVCC should provide education to all Judges and Commissioners as it relates to DV offenders who violate probation.
Outcome: The DVCC worked with the Administrative Office of the Courts to provide this 2010 statewide CLE-approved judicial domestic violence training, attended by 225 individuals, including 55 judges and commissioners.
Hon. Jan Jurden
President Judge, Superior Court
Professor Dana Harrington Conner